USC vs. UNLV score, quick recap: Trojans survive Week 1 yips

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images /

Saturday’s USC vs. UNLV score was an ugly one for long stretches, but the No. 15 Trojans rebounded in the fourth quarter escape a Week 1 scare from the Rebels.

The lowdown: Despite recovering a fumble on the game’s first play, USC’s first half was a sloppy one, particularly on offense. The Trojans settled for a field goal on a short field to start, and then would do it three more times, getting Chase McGrath contributions that ranged from 29 to 47 yards. Vavae Malepeai scored the lone touchdown on a two-yard jaunt with just over a minute to go in the first half.

Defensively, UNLV gave the Trojans fits with trickeration. Rebel running back Lexington Thomas scored on a 71-yard fake reverse, and then a fake punt led to an Armani Rogers touchdown pass, totaling to a 19-14 halftime lead for USC.

After a traditional boring third quarter, things opened up early in the fourth, when true freshman quarterback JT Daniels found fellow Mater Dei debutant Amon-Ra St. Brown on a 43-yard bomb to take a 26-14 advantage. USC wouldn’t look back, as Aca-Cedric Ware put the game out of reach with a 15-yard run minutes later.

Following a swapping of late scores, the Trojans won 43-21, failing to cover a 26.5-point Vegas spread.

Daniels looked strong in his debut, totaling 282 passing yards without throwing an interception. He completed 22 of 35 passes to the tune of a 140.0 passer rating.

The takeaway: If this is the type of performance USC is set to put in on a week-in and week-out basis, they’re not going to go 11-2 and win the Pac-12 again. They were sloppy, lethargic and left too many points on the field, which would’ve cost them against a team better than UNLV.

But it’s Week 1. This is what happens in college football, without the benefit of preseason games. The Trojans did it last year against Western Michigan, and then turned in their best game of the season seven days later against Stanford.

With a sloppy first 45 minutes and a strong finish, it all makes Saturday’s win a game in which you could literally take anything you want from it.

Between a frustrating offensive line performance that saw Daniels sacked twice, scintillating outings from new-on-the-scene receivers Trevon Sidney and St. Brown, and a stereotypical Clancy Pendergast defense that controlled play but gave up big plays, it had everything.

Now it’s all about how the Trojans respond next week, with several areas to fix and just as many to keep cultivating.

Player of the game: Amon-Ra St. Brown had perhaps the most impressive debut for a freshman receiver in USC history, which is saying something given the Trojans’ lineage of great wideouts. He caught seven passes for 98 yards, including the picturesque 43-yard touchdown from Mater Dei High School teammate JT Daniels.

Stat of the game: Chase McGrath’s five made field goals tied a USC record, first done by Ryan Killeen in 2004 against UCLA.

Next on tap: The Trojans will once again kick off the Pac-12 slate with their private school rivals to the north, Stanford, next week in Palo Alto. The Cardinal go into Week 2 after being big winners over San Diego State on Friday night.